Bringing nature back from the brink
Following a careful programme of land management over the past 12 months, Bank’s Common is showing signs of renewed vitality. Barn Owls are returning to nest in the oaks. The joyful songs of skylark and yellowhammer can be heard across the pasture. Gatekeepers, skippers and meadow brown butterflies are again flitting between the wildflowers. These are all important indicators of a habitat returning to wild bountifulness.
“We took Bank’s Common back into our management in 2018,” comments NT Ranger, Ian Swinney. “It had been farmed pretty intensively since World War Two, and now as part of our long-term Land, Outdoors and Nature strategy, we are working to make this a place for wildlife to thrive and so help to reverse the decline in wildlife in this country.”
The work has included felling a few unwanted trees, allowing the grasses and wildflowers to thrive. Nesting boxes have been made by our volunteers and strategically placed to support birds in decline. Parts of the common have been scraped to create ponds for wading birds such as snipe and lapwing. In time, cattle will be introduced for grazing to create a range of micro-habitats suiting a wide variety of small mammals, insects and wildflowers. These in turn will attract bees, birds and butterflies to the site. This type of uncultivated lowland grassland is now very rare in the UK, but it's an environment that’s extremely important for much of our native wildlife.
In 2017, the Trust announced ambitious plans to create 25,000 hectares (62,000 acres) of new habitats by 2025. Bank’s Common may be only 19 acres but it connects to the 382 acres of Bookham Commons and the wider landscape of farms and fields between Bookham and Effingham.
“These wider corridors of connected landscape are vital for wildlife,” adds Ian Swinney. “They can support bigger populations of species, be they insects, birds or flowers, and that improves the odds for survival and expansion. We now know that small populations on small sites have much lower chances of success.”
Bank’s Common is an ancient landscape, which stretches back to medieval times. For centuries, such commons were used for gazing and, spared from intrusive farming, provided a perfect habitat for many insects, birds and flowers which make up the rich diversity of the English countryside. It’s wonderful that, through the support of our members, we have the chance to continue that tradition.